by Matthew Wheaton '10, The Register-Mail
Reprinted with permission. View the original article "Ex-Streak Polay
contributes to Fire's surge" that appeared in The Register-Mail on September 25, 2012.
Things have changed quickly for Knox College men's soccer player Jacob Polay.
After his contributions on the pitch last week, the sophomore, who is the son of well-known conductor and Knox professor Bruce Polay, can't walk across the Knox campus without someone noticing him.
Polay was named the Midwest Conference Men's Soccer Offensive Performer of the Week Monday after he played a key role in ending the Prairie Fire's 34-match winless streak in Midwest Conference play. He gave Knox a two goal lead after he scored in the 70th minute of a 2-1 victory over Monmouth last Saturday at Jorge Prats Field and he also assisted on the Prairie Fire's first goal.
The MWC win against the Fighting Scots was the first league triumph for Knox's men's soccer program since Sept. 27, 2008 -- also a 2-1 win against Monmouth.
"I wouldn't say my name is in comparison to my father's but it's been an interesting few days being recognized on campus," Polay said. "I met a lot of new people this weekend. I just smile and wave and take it while I can."
"There are a lot of really good players in our conference," added the 2010 Galesburg High School grad. "It was a great surprise to say the least. There is always pressure to perform especially in your hometown. This year we've all earned each others trust and believe we can win every game if we go into it with 110 percent."
Knox coach Matthew Edwards, who is in his first year at the helm of the Prairie Fire, believes Polay has the ability to become one of the best strikers on the NCAA Division III level.
"Jacob -- the best way to describe him is a bull in a China shop -- when he goes at it he goes 110 percent," Edwards said. "His potential is through the roof. Over the next two years he can become one of the best strikers on the Division III level. His role has been to come off the bench and give the team minutes. When he's in the game his role is to give 110 percent, go at defenders, get shots off and all that good stuff."
Coming off the bench is something new for Polay. He appeared in the starting lineup in nine of Knox's 14 matches last season and started when he played for the Silver Streaks. Polay is also getting adjusted to having the opportunity to score. He's tied for third on the team with nine points and three goals, shares the team lead with three assists, and is tied for second on the squad with one game-winning goal.
"Last year, I played a lot of defense because of my physical size and speed, I guess, but this year I'm getting the chance to play up top," he said. "I've always wanted to be a striker, but wasn't always given the opportunity. It's been very nice to do what I love."
"It's taken a little time adjusting to coming off the bench, but you have to realize your key as part of the machine," Polay added. "You have to play your part and get past that."
Polay and his teammates have all played a significant part in getting Knox soccer headed in the right direction. After finishing with an overall record of 1-16 last season, the Prairie Fire head into today's 2 p.m. home game against Eureka with an overall record of 4-3-1.
"The players have just bought into everything I've asked them to do," Edwards said. "We've sold the team concept and everyone is working hard. The transition has been easy with the quality of athletes here at Knox."
"We talked about this on Monday," he added. "Beating Monmouth shouldn't be the story of the season. We will take each game on its own merit. We're just going to approach every game with the mentality to outwork our opponents and see where we end up. We are definitely ahead of where I thought we would be."
"This year is completely different than last year. Everyone is giving 110 percent and it's working out really well for us," Polay said. "Coach Edwards has really focused a lot on being a team. In the preseason, we spent a lot of time together and we've built relationships with each other on and off the field which has contributed a lot to our success."